When I first started Habitat for Humanity Singapore, some one from my church asked me about how Habitat works. I told him that we bring together volunteers regardless of their race, language or religion; and serve people regardless of their race, language or religion. I shared with him how a certain corporation's executives came together to build a house in Batam. When he heard it, he was most dismayed. He said that if we were to ask those executives to surrender one day's worth of their salaries, we could hire local construction staff and build many more houses than just one house. He also said that he could get his construction workers to go to Batam and build another 300 houses, and when I asked him to go ahead, he replied, "Just kidding.”
This person's reasoning sounds right, except that he did not know that Habitat for Humanity is not just about the house beneficiaries.
We are also about the volunteers. We believe that by bringing people together, not only would we be able to help the house beneficiaries get a decent house to call their own, we are also playing a role in the transformation of the volunteers. We believe that getting donors to give money is actually the easier thing to do; while getting them to be willing to spend time and physical effort is harder to do, but a great investment of our time and effort. We have seen many volunteers becoming more active in charitable work after participating in Habitat activities. Reading about poverty in a magazine or brochure is just totally different from being on the ground, working while seeing the impact of the work on house beneficiaries.
This gathering of volunteers would benefit our society beyond the recipient of that one house. We conduct special builds to advocate for other causes. For example, the "Women's Build" highlights gender equality, "CEO Build" encouraged top executives to combine their talents to benefit the world, and my personal favourite, "Inter-faith Build".
We conduct "Inter-faith Build" to bring together people of different religious affiliation to demonstrate that while we certainly have differences in religious belief, we can also celebrate our commonality in wanting to do good for the needy. The Build demonstrates clearly to the whole society that just because we differ significantly on religious matters, we do not need to fight, and can still work together. This in my opinion, goes a long way in securing peace and harmony for everyone.
So for 2019, we want to do more of such specialised builds, to promote and preserve the peace we all often take for granted. Every time you participate in a Habitat event, you are actually making the same statement as well - that we all want to live in a world where every person has a decent place to call home.
So stop reading and sign up already!
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